Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, Ricardo Amils, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, William M. Irvine, Daniele L. Pinti, Michel Viso

Extreme Environment

  • Felipe Gómez
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-11274-4_566





An extreme  environment is a habitat characterized by harsh environmental conditions, beyond the optimal range for the development of humans, for example, pH 2 or 11, −20°C or 113°C, saturating salt concentrations, high radiation, 200 bars of pressure, among others. Basically, these are all inhospitable conditions for life. By definition, the organisms that are able to live in extreme environments are known as  extremophiles. Not so long ago it was thought that life could not occur under extreme conditions., In the 1960s, Professor Thomas D. Brock, from Wisconsin-Madison University, isolated and described the first organisms from Yellowstone National Park, USA. This organism, Thermus aquaticus, is capable of growing at temperatures higher than 70°C. Its DNA polymerase has been widely applied in molecular biology as it is the base of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based on the thermophilic properties of the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Further Reading

  1. Amaral-Zettler L, Gómez F, Zettler E, Keenan BG, Amils R, Sogin M (2002) Eukaryotic diversity in Spain's river of fire. Nature 417:137. doi: 10.1038/417137ªADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Karl DM, Bird DF, Björkman K, Houlihan T, Shackelford R, Tupas L (1999) Microorganisms in the Accreted Ice of Lake Vostok, Antarctica. Science 286(5447):2144–2147. doi:10.1126/science.286.5447.2144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Rothschild LJ, Mancinelli RL (2001) Life in extreme environments. Nature 409:1092–1101. doi:10.1038/35059215ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Wharton DA (2002) Life at the limits: organisms in extreme environments. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0521782120CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)Instituto Nacional de Técnica AeroespacialTorrejón de ArdozMadridSpain